Adjusting to the Altitude

Plan Your Visit: Travel FAQs

The mountains of Breckenridge, Colorado are majestic and snowcapped most of the year, with sunshine, fresh mountain air and low humidity providing a remarkable experience in the summer and incredible conditions for ski season. But enjoying life in the beauty of the high country above 9,600 feet has its challenges. The climate is exceptionally dry, oxygen is lower and the sun is more powerful, even on a cloudy day. These conditions can cause the potential for altitude sickness as well as a noticeable difference in skin after just a few hours. Thankfully, there are easy steps to combat the environment while moving on with all the activities and wonders the mountains have to offer.

Combatting Altitude Sickness

According to research from Dr. Paul Anderson from the Mayo Clinic, approximately 20 percent of people who visit a high-altitude location (4,291 – 11,483 feet) are affected by some form of altitude illness. However, with a little preparation before traveling, symptoms can be avoided. “Knowledge is the best prevention for altitude illness,” recommends Dr. Anderson. Here are some tips that can help make your stay in Breckenridge more pleasant and healthy:

Drink water

It sounds pretty simple, but drinking plenty of fluids is key. According to the Mayo Clinic, dehydration reduces your body’s ability to adjust to high altitude. Start hydrating even a few days before your trip. It may be challenging to drink fluids while traveling, but it does pay off.

Lay off the booze and caffeine

Once you are here take it easy on dehydrating drinks. We know it can be difficult when you’re in holiday/vacation mode, but avoiding alcohol and caffeine decreases your risk of succumbing to the effects of altitude.

Spend a night in the mile-high city

If possible, spend some extra time in Denver or at a lower elevation before ascending to Breckenridge. A gradual ascent to higher elevations is recommended to allow your body to acclimatize. The Mayo Clinic states that this will allow your body to gradually adjust to higher altitudes.

Get fit in advance and take it easy at first

Even if you’re a marathon runner or world-class athlete back home, you’re not immune to altitude illness. Altitude illnesses can affect anyone regardless of what sort of physical condition they are in, but being in shape can help your resilience to the symptoms, say researchers from the Mayo Clinic. No matter your fitness level, experts recommend to take it easy for the first few days at altitude. I know. I know. It’s hard not to hit the slopes or mountain bike trails on your first day, but ease into it to allow your body to adjust (and remember to drink lots of water).

Local help

When in Breckenridge there are a couple of other ways to help you combat altitude sickness. To help get a better night’s rest, many hotels and property management companies offer humidifiers to moisten the air. In many of the stores around town you can purchase oxygen in a can. Also, there is an oxygen bar, The O2 Lounge, where you can buy a treatment of oxygen while you chill out and relax. They offer oxygen machine rentals and portable oxygen cans. Another great option is visiting the hydration experts at Vida Flo.  This local IV Hydration & Oxygen Therapy clinic alleviates hangovers, common ailments and improves athletic performance, dry skin, wrinkles, fatigue & more! All  Treatments are administered by licensed nurses in good standing that assess the suitability of all patients on an individual basis. Walk-in and same day appointments available.

The O2 Lounge Exterior
The O2 Lounge offers multiple ways to combat altitude sickness.

With some advance planning and preparation, you’ll be acclimatized and healthy for your Rocky Mountain trip. For more information about how to prevent altitude sickness, check out these tips from the Mayo Clinic.

Protect against the Sun

Anytime you are in the high country, even on a cloudy day. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation increases 10–12 percent for every 3,000 feet of elevation. That means you are receiving 30-40 percent more UV radiation in Breckenridge than at the beach! Applying sunscreen is an easy task and will prevent the harmful lasting effect of sun damage as well as the discomfort of a sunburn. The reflection of the sun off the snow makes it more intense as well, so don’t forget sunglasses!

When moisturizer isn’t enough

No matter the season you visit, your skin…all of it, will experience massive loss of moisture. Many people find a moisturizer that works in a more humid climate doesn’t get the job done at high altitudes. A couple of simple solutions will easily get you through the week and solve this problem. Applying a hydrating serum that contains hyaluronic acid under your moisturizer will do wonders to help prevent moisture loss. Another solution is to layer a beauty oil on top of your moisturizer to help seal in the hydration.

It’s also common to experience dry eyes and dry skin around the eyes. Reduced moisture in the air contributes to the conditions. Moistening eye drops will feel good and lessen redness.

While exploring the charm of downtown Breckenridge, you’ll find some fantastic local brands of foot cream, hand cream, oil and body lotion at shops and spas focused on providing solutions to the unique challenges of life in the mountains. Harmony Health & Wellness Spa on Main Street can offer suggestions about what works best in this climate to provide immediate relief.

BOTTOM LINE: Wear sunscreen, hydrate inside and out and have fun!

By Breck Editorial

The Breckenridge Tourism Office works to enhance and promote the unique character and experience of Breckenridge as a world-renowned destination resort and to represent, serve and perpetuate the common interest and character of its membership and community.

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